The coronavirus pandemic has inspired panic in many people in the UK, with shoppers emptying supermarket shelves. But countless people have also reacted with kindness in a bid to protect the most vulnerable.
Graphic designer Becky Wass, from Cornwall, made a simple postcard for people to put through their older neighbours’ letterboxes – which is now being used across the UK.
With over-70s potentially facing months of self-isolation to protect them from Covid-19, the card provides a simple way of offering them a helping hand with basic tasks, or a reassuring voice over the phone.
“If just one person feels less lonely or isolated when faced with this pandemic, then I’ll feel better about it (I hope!),” Wass posted on Facebook.
In parts of London, grassroots volunteers and local authorities are forming task forces to protect people sleeping rough or experiencing homelessness – who cannot easily adhere to NHS guidelines on hand washing, nor self-isolate if they develop symptoms. Some groups are patrolling the streets, distributing care packages of hand sanitiser and guidance on how to stay safe.
The Covid-19 outbreak is laying bare structural inequalities inside and outside the UK. Children on free school meals may be forced to go hungry if schools closures are brought into effect. Self-employed people and those in insecure work are ineligible for sick pay and could be pushed into poverty if they are required to self-isolate, unions have warned. They instead must turn to the benefit system.
What can be done about this?
EachOther has compiled the following list – which we will update as the situation develops.
Maintain social distancing and hand-washing
The simplest and most important thing we can do is heed official guidance on hygiene and social distancing – so that we slow the spread of the illness and prevent our healthcare system’s capacity from being overloaded.
This is called “flattening the curve”:
On Monday (16 March), the government urged everyone to avoid non-essential travel and contact with others – avoiding pubs, theatres and other public locations.
This also includes not visiting care homes, working from home where possible and self-isolating for 14-days if you are in the same house as someone with a cough or fever.
In the words of actor Idris Elba, who tested positive for Covid-19: “Look we live in a divided world right now. We can all feel it. It’s been bullshit. But, nows the time of solidarity. Now is the time for thinking about each other.”
This morning I tested positive for Covid 19. I feel ok, I have no symptoms so far but have been isolated since I found out about my possible exposure to the virus. Stay home people and be pragmatic. I will keep you updated on how I’m doing 👊🏾👊🏾 No panic. pic.twitter.com/Lg7HVMZglZ
— Idris Elba (@idriselba) March 16, 2020
Buy only what you need
Ridiculous scenes in Tesco Colney Hatch this morning. Shelves cleared like there’s been a riot. The selfishness of some people filling their trolleys with multiple packs and leaving none for others is staggering. (Plus so much for getting here early to avoid crowded spaces.) pic.twitter.com/CIhJexaYul
— Michelle Davies (@M_Davieswrites) March 14, 2020
Social media has been awash with images of supermarket shelves laying bare and shoppers arguing over basic goods amid stockpiling in anticipation of having to self-isolate.
Some food banks, which provide nourishment to the UK’s most vulnerable people, have warned their stocks will dwindle as a result.
In an unprecedented move, the UK’s leading supermarkets have appealed for customers to shop responsible to ensure supplies are shared out fairly.
An open letter whose signatories include Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Ocado said:
“We would ask everyone to be considerate in the way they shop. We understand your concerns but buying more than is needed can sometimes mean that others will be left without. There is enough for everyone if we all work together.”
Give what you can
If you’ve now got an abundance of stockpiled goods – why not donate some to those who are lacking?
You could donate to your local food bank. Most will have a list of their most-needed items on their website.
It’s also worth asking local homeless shelters if they are in need of basic supplies like tissues and hand sanitiser.
The Trussell Trust runs a nationwide network of food banks which you could donate to.
Grassroots volunteer network Streets Kitchen is accepting donations of hand sanitiser and tissues between 11 and 2pm at the Vibast Community Centre in Old Street on Tuesday’s.
Connect with your local community
Hundreds of communities across the country have set up “mutual aid” groups to help people who are self-isolating, especially older people and those with long-term conditions such as cancer or diabetes.
You can find a whole list of such groups here.
They are autonomous and run by volunteers, not medical professionals, with the aim of reducing pressure on the NHS and preventing the disease spreading.
Among the activities volunteers are offering help with is shopping, dog-walking, picking up prescriptions and keeping people company over the phone.
The website emphasises that safety must be prioritised and provides guidance on how to help safely.
Even if you in self-isolation, you can help others by simply having a phone conversation.
On 24 March, health secretary Matt Hancock called for an “army” of 250,000 volunteers to help up to 1.5million people shielding themselves from coronavirus because of underlying health conditions. You can sign up to volunteer on this NHS website.
Use your voice
You could consider lending you voice some of the petitions calling for greater protections for workers and renters, among other groups, amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
More than 20,000 people so far have signed a Trade Union Congress petition demanding that the statutory sick of £92.45 a week be raised.
While campaign group Acorn is calling for rents to be frozen while people are self-isolating and for measures to be taken to prevent tenants being evicted during the pandemic.